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Photograph by Saiyna Bashir

Postpartum haemorrhage is the leading cause of maternal death worldwide, responsible for around 100,000 deaths every year. While around 6 per cent of women giving birth all over the world – in rich and poor countries alike – develop postpartum haemorrhage, 99 per cent of deaths from it occur in low- and middle-income countries. A recent clinical trial found that a cheap, out of patent drug – tranexamic acid – is hugely effective in reducing these deaths. But in many of the countries that need it most, it isn’t always easily available.

In a reported story for Mosaic, I travelled to Pakistan and Nigeria to explore what comes next after a successful clinical trial, and to look in depth at the fightback against high maternal mortality rates.

When the trial results came out in April 2017, the doctors who had worked on it in Pakistan were jubilant. Tranexamic acid, which stops blood clots from breaking down, works in a totally different way from other drug treatments for postpartum haemorrhage, which mainly focus on helping the uterus to contract. “If the patient has had the uterotonic drugs and needs two transfusions, the addition of tranexamic acid means the need for blood transfusions is reduced, as is the need for surgery,” explains Khan. “It’s easily available, cheap, very effective. It’s a magic drug.”

You can read the rest of the story at Mosaic.

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Nighat Dad, founder of Digital Rights Foundation

Gender-based harassment can look extremely different in different parts of the world, posing a conundrum for global social media companies: what might look like a totally mundane image to a western viewer could be scandalous in a more conservative context, if it reveals evidence of a pre-marital relationship.

I explored the issue of social media harassment and blackmail in Pakistan in a story for Elle magazine.

When we hear the words ‘revenge porn’, we typically think of sexually explicit images, but in a context like Pakistan, even non-explicit images can have a devastating impact. A 2017 study found that 70% of Pakistani women were afraid of posting or sharing photographs of themselves online in case the pictures were misused.

First, Asad messaged Fatima’s sister on Facebook, trying to coerce Fatima into resuming contact. Then he threatened Fatima, telling her he would share the photographs he had of them together. He carried through, contacting her father and her brother via Facebook and WhatsApp.

The reporting for this story was supported by a media fellowship with Columbia University’s Centre for the Study of Social Difference. The programme, titled Religion and the Global Reframing of Gender Violence, aims to question dominant narratives about gender based violence, with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. I was also a media fellow on the programme last year (you can see some of the reporting I did here).

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Manzoor Pashteen, leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement

I’ve been going back and forth to Pakistan a lot this year as I research for my forthcoming book, Karachi Vice, and work on other projects, including my first documentary film (details to come!). It has been a tumultuous period in Pakistani politics, with July’s election putting Imran Khan in power, amid a widespread crackdown on free expression. I’ve written various articles on these subjects over the course of the year, ranging from opinion pieces to more in-depth reported stories. Here are some links:

Under the watchful eye of the army (Index on Censorship)

This reported piece for Index on Censorship’s July 2018 issue (behind a paywall) looks at the drastic ramping up of restrictions on free speech in Pakistan.

Imran Khan has won over Pakistan, but the real power still lies with the army (Guardian)

This comment piece, written the day after July’s election, looks ahead to Imran Khan’s premiership and notes the role of the military in the election.

Imran Khan’s treatment of Asia Bibi is a dangerous betrayal (Guardian)

This comment piece looks at the plight of religious minorities in Pakistan, and the political response to a court verdict freeing Asia Bibi, a Christian woman serving time for blasphemy.

A spark in Pakistan (Prospect)

This long-form reported piece appeared in Prospect’s November 2018 issue. It looks at the emergence of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, a peaceful civil rights movement drawing attention to military and human rights abuses. The movement has been subject to a harsh crackdown. I interviewed the group’s young leader, Manzoor Pashteen, as well as others involved in the movement. (Clipping to come).

 

 

adieI’m a huge radio nerd and Kate Adie fan, so was really delighted to have a couple of pieces on the BBC’s flagship show From Our Own Correspondent this year. The programme airs on Radio 4 and the World Service.

The first piece, which aired in October, tells the story of Ali (not his real name), a survivor of what has been dubbed Pakistan’s biggest sexual abuse scandal. He was one of hundreds of victims of a child abuse ring in the city of Kasur, in Punjab. But despite widespread media coverage of their case, justice has been elusive, and Ali and other survivors are facing social exclusion.

The second story, which also aired first in October, looks at the many internally displaced people in Iraq who are living in half-built construction sites in Erbil. Many of these buildings were abandoned by property developers when the conflict with ISIS began, and they have been repurposed as homes for the million people who lost their homes.

3977I am so delighted to announce that I’ve won the inaugural Portobello Prize for narrative non-fiction, which was set up to “showcase the most exciting new voices in narrative non-fiction, offering debut writers an opportunity to seek out and publish an untold story that reflects our times.” I entered with a proposal for a book about Karachi, building on some long-form pieces I’ve already written. (This piece on an ambulance driver, and this piece on a crime reporter, among others). It will follow ordinary lives through a chaotic period in the city’s recent history.

The inaugural Portobello Prize has been awarded to “electrifying new voice” Samira Shackle for Karachi Vice, a “fresh and thrilling” non-fiction exploration of Pakistan’s largest city.

According to the judges, this “glimpse of a city largely misrepresented and misunderstood is told with a clear sense of urgency and with a personal connection. It will place human drama at the fore as it follows the lives of several citizens of Karachi”.

Read more over at the Bookseller’s website. I now have to actually write the book, which will probably be out at some point in 2020.

580432c5406beI’ve written a few pieces about Pakistan in recent months.

Rising from the ashes: a new era in Pakistani cinema (emerge85)

I wrote this piece about Pakistani cinema’s “new wave” back in January. After a long lull – wracked by underfunding and a severe limitation of physical cinemas – Pakistani directors and writers are producing exciting and distinctive new movies. I also discussed the story on emerge85’s podcast.

Don’t be fooled by elections—the military is still in charge in Pakistan (Prospect)

On a less cheerful note, my column in the June issue of Prospect looks at the increasing limits on Pakistan’s democracy as the July election approaches and censorship of media outlets ramping up.

Under the watchful eye of the army (Index on Censorship)

For this report on the ongoing clampdown on free expression in Pakistan, I spoke with journalists who have been targeted by the establishment after criticising the military. The piece – in the Summer 2018 issue – is currently behind a paywall.

 

india_pakistan-620x413On the 14th and 15th August, Pakistan and India celebrated their respective Independence Days. This year, which marks 70 years since the Partition of India, the celebrations were accompanied by reflection. There has been a cultural reticence around discussion of the deep trauma inflicted by Partition – the ripple effects of which are still felt today.

In a piece for Prospect, I wrote about historians who are trying to gather oral histories of Partition – a project which is fast becoming a race against time as the last generation with vivid memories of this seismic event die out.

Oral history is particularly important given that there has been no major public reckoning with the seismic event of Partition. There are no memorials for the dead, no national reflection as there is today in Germany after the horrors of the Holocaust, no reconciliation committees as in Rwanda after the genocide. There are several possible reasons for this: not least the circumstances of Partition, which involved not only independence from years of subjugation but the birth of two new countries.

For The Pool, I wrote about the gender-specific traumas faced by women. In addition to a broader cultural reluctance to talk about Partition, these stories are hampered by stigma around sexual violence.

Urvashi Butalia, Indian feminist historian and author of The Other Side of Silence, has written about the gendered impact of Partition, and the need for a true engagement with this history: “Women were raped, kidnapped, abducted, forcibly impregnated by men of the ‘other’ religion, thousands of families were split apart, homes burnt down and destroyed, villages abandoned. Refugee camps became part of the landscape of most major cities in the north, but, a half century later, there is still no memorial, no memory, no recall, except what is guarded, and now rapidly dying, in families and collective memory.”

On a (slightly) more cheerful note, my 93 year old grandmother spoke to BBC Woman’s Hour about her own memories of Partition, when she was one of many privileged young women who joined the relief effort by working in refugee camps. You can listen online – she’s about 25 minutes in and is followed by a historian talking about the impact Partition had on women.